Hon. Ron Cannan (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC)
Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure to rise this evening to participate in this important meeting of committee of the whole to discuss Canada's prudent economic policies. I would like to focus my comments this evening on our government's steadfast support for Canada's seniors, folks who have helped build a country that is strong, prosperous and secure.
Our government respects Canada's seniors for their efforts, but more than respecting them, we are empowering them to become stronger, more prosperous and more secure, just as they did for Canada. We have a well-established record of achievement in this regard. Among the foremost of our achievements is ensuring that more seniors are not burdened with paying taxes after having already given so much to their country.
As a result of our low-tax plan, about 400,000 seniors have been removed from the tax rolls. Since 2006, our government has increased the age credit amount by $2,000, $1,000 in 2006 and another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000. We have introduced pension income splitting, which is benefiting over two million Canadians every year.
However, sadly to say, the Liberals have stated that they would take away income splitting for nearly two million families. Just like they would take away this tax saving from families, I have heard they would also take this income-splitting plan away from seniors. We regret that both opposition parties plan to raise taxes on middle-class seniors.
By contrast, as a result of actions taken by the government to date, seniors and pensioners are receiving about $3 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief. In 2015, a single senior could earn at least $20,000 and a senior couple at least $40,000 before paying federal income tax.
Not only are we leaving seniors with more money in their pockets, but we are empowering them to make the most of their savings. In the fall of 2014, we partnered with the Minister of Finance, the Minister of State for Finance and as well the hard-working Minister of State for Seniors. Under the guidance of the new Financial Literacy Leader, our government released a strategy to enhance the financial literacy of seniors. Its aim is to help seniors and near-seniors plan for and manage their finances during their later years and ensures they get the fair treatment they deserve. This is a request that I have heard from my constituents. We responded, and we required enhanced disclosure by banks and the costs and benefits of using powers of attorney for joint accounts and more robust bank processes and staff training.
By building on this record of support for seniors, economic action plan 2015 takes us a step further in helping seniors to effectively manage their finances.
As the member of Parliament for Kelowna—Lake Country, I am very proud to represent a high proportion of seniors, including folks like Mr. and Mrs Sawatzky who were on Parliament Hill today and many other of my seniors, who maybe watching the other channel as the Rockets are just a few wins away from winning the Memorial Cup, we hope. Go Rockets, go.
However, what I heard, loud and clear, and have communicated to the finance minister, was a need to relax the rules surrounding registered retirement income funds, known as RRIFs, as seniors are living longer and with healthier lifestyles. We listened and acted. The budget would do exactly this. It would strengthen seniors' retirement options. By permitting more capital preservation, the new factors would help reduce the risk of out-living one's savings, while ensuring that the tax deferral provided on registered retirement savings plans, or RRSPs, and the RRIF savings accounts continue to serve a retirement income purpose.
At the same time, economic action plan 2015 would increase the tax-free savings accounts, otherwise known as TFSAs. The annual contribution limit would go from $5,500 to $10,000. This gives Canadians, including seniors, more room to save money tax free. At the end of 2013, about 46% of individuals who contributed the maximum amount to their tax-free savings account were seniors.
Taken together, these new measures will support the retirement income needs of seniors, providing them with increased flexibility to manage their savings in a tax-efficient manner.
However, that is not all. Economic action plan 2015 also proposes a new home accessibility tax credit for seniors and persons with disabilities. This permanent, non-refundable credit will help with the cost of renovations to allow seniors and persons with disabilities to live independently and safely in their homes.
At the same time, economic action plan will extend compassionate care benefits from the current six weeks to six months to ensure employment insurance benefits are available when Canadians need them most, something on which all of us in the House have heard from our constituents. It is a very welcome addition to budget 2015. Also, it will provide up to $42 million over five years, starting in 2015-16, to help improve seniors' health through innovation by establishing the Canadian centre for aging and brain health innovation, which is another important area of research.
These are all important advancements we are making for the benefit of seniors, and they are building on a solid foundation of support that we continue to strengthen.
I will quickly touch on how we have acted to strengthen Canada's retirement income system to serve the needs of today's and future retirees.
We increased benefits for the guaranteed income supplement, GIS, for Canada's most vulnerable seniors. This investment of roughly $300 million each year improves the well-being of approximately 680,000 seniors across Canada and represents the largest GIS increase for the lowest-income seniors in a quarter century, a caring and compassionate measure I might add. We have also improved the regulations supporting private retirement savings and expanded opportunities through new private savings vehicles, like the pooled registered pension plans. Taken together, these initiatives provide a strong foundation upon which Canadians can achieve their retirement goals with confidence.
The effectiveness of our government's achievements is underscored by expert third-party analysis. Canada's retirement income system is acknowledged to be among the world's best by groups like the OECD in terms of preventing poverty among seniors and ensuring appropriate income retirement.
With all the actions I have outlined today, we are making Canada's seniors stronger, more prosperous and more secure. By doing so, we are giving back to them what they have given to us.
My question for the hon. Minister of State for Finance is this. What are we doing to support the growing number of seniors who choose to remain engaged in the workforce in their communities?
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Business of Supply